All About Creativity

Inspiration is one thing, but what happens once you’re inspired? Let’s say the inspiration has lead you to something of value. A writer’s job is then to take that raw inspiration and make something of it — and this calls for creativity. Creativity happens when the artists makes new connections and associations between existing ideas. According to recent findings, creativity actually has very little to do with that sudden spark of ideas (cognitively speaking). Creativity is about figuring out solutions to problems. Ironically, the most effective way to solve a problem can sometimes mean taking a break from it. Once we’ve removed ourselves from that problem, our brain opens up. When we stop focusing, our brain relaxes and it is easier for ideas to roam around — networking with other ideas, thereby developing new solutions.

Why is it then that some people can think creatively while others seem to have a mental block? Creative people don’t have any inborn cognitive advantages, they don’t have better childhoods, and they’re not smarter. It is not nature and it’s not always nurture either.

Creativity is a skill that you can practice. For example, creative people generally have schedules that serve to maximize creative thinking. They shift between work and rest, so that their mind can reboot. Creative people know where they work best. In public, noisy environments or in quiet, seclusive environments. They also know to always keep a specific objective in mind. Even if they don’t have an exact picture in mind, they will have, at the very least, an idea of what they want and that will keep them focused. Of course, I also believe that sometimes not knowing what you want can lead to great artistic things. But that’s kind of the lucky exception.

But most of all, creativity is about having a free flow of ideas. Creative people are more creative because they have more ideas. And I think maybe that’s the key separator between talented and mediocre. Many of those ideas will be worthless, but it is up to the thinker to decide that. They filter their inspiration like a sieve and they work with the few ideas they’ve found viable.

Ways to Unleash Your Creativity

1. Shift to another project – When you get can’t work any longer, you’ve reached a normal, practically inevitable, point. One solution to writer’s block is to move around that road bump and start working on another project. I have one big WIP, but every other month I stop writing it. I’ll stop thinking about it too. But I’ll continue to write. Prolific writing is important, but no one said you had to stick to the same story. Try some writing prompts to kick you off. Write some short stories instead of trying to conquer another full length novel.

2. Exercise – Adding a physical hobby to your daily schedule can refresh your mind. In addition to the physical benefits, there are also psychological reasons to work out. It can improve mood and help with anxiety. A clearer mind might help you focus on your writing. I know that when I’m depressed and worried, I don’t write very well.

3. Classical Music? – Yeah. It’s good for the intelligence of your baby and it’s good for your adult mind as well. Try it out. And if classical music isn’t your thing, try soft or sweet lyric-free music.

4. Bathtub, Bed, Bus – The three most common places to be struck by inspiration. “In creativity research, we refer to the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged. When we take time off from working on a problem, we change what we’re doing and our context, and that can activate different areas of our brain. If the answer wasn’t in the part of the brain we were using, it might be in another.” (Time.com)

5. Think Big – According to the Construal Level Theory, people are more creative when they think in distances. That is to say, when we think of anything that is not occurring in the here and now. If we look through another lens, from someone else’s perspective, from another culture’s eyes, or if we imagine things not of this earth — we’re more likely to create something new. Thinking big promotes global processing which allows your brain to open so that creative thoughts can connect to each other and produce new and interesting thoughts.

6. Tagline/Logline –A logline is that one-sentence summary that a writer will use to sell his story. But before the novel is even finished, a writer can use a logline as a guiding light. The logline is to a writer what a walking stick is to a blind man — it keeps us on track. To write a logline, ask yourself the following questions: 1. Who is the main character and what he/she want? Who/What is standing in the way? What makes the story unique? Use action words to intrigue and descriptive words to create a lasting image. Advice from scriptologist.com

Photo: Flickr alicepopkorn

In creativity research, we refer to the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged. When we take time off from working on a problem, we change what we’re doing and our context, and that can activate different areas of our brain. If the answer wasn’t in the part of the brain we were using, it might be in another.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sarahwedgbrow
    May 11, 2010 @ 14:27:10

    You’ve pointed out some interesting things about creativity. I really like your list, especially the idea that “If the answer wasn’t in the part of the brain we were using, it might be in another.”
    I did want to say, though, that the best way to get through a “bump in the road” is just to continue writing (as you suggested with turning to other writing projects). Have no fear of mediocrity. There are no wasted words. You never know when you’re going to use them/need them. Perserverence pays well…even better than having a bit of talent.

    Reply

    • Dominique
      May 11, 2010 @ 21:51:05

      No fear of mediocrity? If I can’t fear being a bad writer than where would all my worries go? But you know what, it’s not such a bad thing — fearing mediocrity — it keeps me motivated. I always want to climb higher. Which isn’t to say that I’m never proud of myself. There’s the occasional good piece of writing. But, particularly because I just started taking writing seriously, I think it’s important to always have new goals.

      Reply

  2. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    May 11, 2010 @ 20:59:24

    Good suggestions. When I’m stuck, walking seems to work best for me – I guess fresh air just helps to get my mind working again.

    Reply

    • Dominique
      May 11, 2010 @ 21:53:05

      I go to the gym. Don’t ask me why but something about a good physical shake up will help you artistically.

      Reply

  3. angela
    May 11, 2010 @ 23:24:45

    This is a great post. I found myself nodding as I read, and I love your breakdown of what creativity is, and how to bettter train ourselves to develop it.

    Reply

  4. s0beurself
    May 13, 2010 @ 15:07:02

    Great Post, and I have to agree with Jane, walking is the best way to stir up the creative flow. I truly believe offices should replace their chairs with treadmills – an active body fosters an active mind.

    Also, if I may, I’d like to add BSing to that list of Bs. You know, hanging out with like-minded people, talking about your ideas over coffee, tea, or beer. Many of my favorite ideas were born that way.

    Reply

    • Dominique
      May 14, 2010 @ 04:11:41

      YES. Active body, active mind. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

      And as a film lover, I want to add watching movies to that BSing category. You can learn a lot from a good flick.

      Reply

  5. dirtywhitecandy
    May 16, 2010 @ 19:15:29

    Really nice post. Creativity is a strange animal; it goes on in the brain all the time, regardless of whether you need it or can use it. And sometimes it has to be tricked to co-operate. Perhaps this is what is meant by the muse; it’s not what makes you have ideas, it’s the whole unpredictable process. I’m off to tweet!

    Reply

  6. dirtywhitecandy
    Jun 25, 2010 @ 08:05:57

    I hopped back over here to tell you there’s an award waiting for you on my blog.

    Reply

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